LA Times In 1980, Texas housewife Candy Montgomery was accused of murdering her friend Betty Gore with an ax — an astounding 41 cuts were found on Gore’s body. The crime and surrounding events, including a public trial that saw Montgomery being found not guilty after pleading self-defense — saying Gore had attacked her after learning of her husband’s affair with her friend — is the sort of stranger-than-fiction tale Hollywood loves. In fact, just a year after these events played out in Hulu’s “Candy,” Max presented the story in “Love & Death.”
That limited series, written by David E. Kelley and based largely on the 1984 book “Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs,” examines the before-and-after, including the love affair between Montgomery and Gore’s husband, Allan. With the characters Candy and Allan requiring much nuance, Kelley and executive producer and director Lesli Linka Glatter, who helmed five of the seven “Love & Death” episodes, knew immediately whom to cast.
“The first choice was Elizabeth Olsen,” Glatter says in an April video call. “She goes deep, and her eyes let you into her psyche. She had a huge amount of empathy for Candy and got inside her skin. Jesse Plemons was also our first choice for Allan. Jesse is an extraordinary actor, and subtle and complicated, so I felt like we hit pay dirt.”
Olsen and Plemons both say they, in turn, were attracted to the project based on the scripts and the involvement of the writer and director. For Olsen in particular, Candy represented the type of character she’d not had the opportunity to play in a world she hadn’t previously experienced. To prepare, the actors had the book, a series of articles from Texas Monthly and court transcripts, as well as some photographs, but ultimately this wasn’t about mimicking real people.
“In the early phases, you’re just exploring the character in the story,” Plemons says. “You’re trying to gather as much information as possible, because you never know if something, even tiny little snippets out of a book, could unlock something in your mind. Then there’s a certain amount of trusting that you’ve unlocked who they are at their core, reminding yourself that you’re not making a documentary about these people, you want to be truthful and honest and respectful to who you believe they were.”
An important aspect of finding Candy on-screen was her accent and her pulled-together appearance. Although the real Montgomery had a tightly curled perm, Glatter felt that would be distracting for the viewer. Instead, Candy’s look is based on what was current and on trend at the time. Her voice reflects someone who lives in Texas but isn’t originally from there.
“We don’t have recordings of their voices, so making that choice, to me, was such a huge character moment,” Olsen says. “You all of a sudden start to feel it in your body — how these people speak and how they choose to present themselves to the world and how they use their voice to get through or hide or whatever they need to do. To me, she seemed like someone who would use her femininity to either be sweet or to try and get people to fall in love with her.”
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